Skateboarding, LIFE opined in 1965, is “the most exhilarating and dangerous joyriding device this side of the hot rod. A two-foot piece of wood or plastic mounted on wheels, it yields to the skillful user the excitements of skiing or surfing. To the unskilled it gives the effect of having stepped on a banana peel while dashing down the back stairs. It is also a menace to limb and even to life.” Above, LIFE looks back at the early, thrillingly anarchic days of a quintessentially American sport and pastime that, over the years, has been embraced by millions around the world while still, somehow, retaining its rebel cred. The stunning black-and-white images serve as a juxtaposition between old world hijinks and fun, and this new and invigorating way to navigate New York City terrain.
Check out the entire set of images here.